This I Believe

Arthur - PALO ALTO, California
Entered on August 6, 2007

I believe that the principle that our votes are cast in secret and counted in public is incompatible with voting machines whose inner workings are trade secrets. Our government obtains its legitimacy through the consent of the governed, with that consent provided through free and fair elections.

I believe that all election records other than passwords and keys should be open to full inspection by anyone. I believe that anyone should be able to inspect the software instructions that program the various voting machines.

I believe that if the government can spend billions on new voting machines, then it can spend a few million on the development of trustworthy, secure and reliable voting machine software that is open to full inspection. I believe that we can develop trustworthy systems for voting involving a combination of people and computers and using paper ballots that are directly counted. I believe that we can develop systems that can be made more secure than hand-counting paper ballots or computerized voting machines alone, that humans can double-check computers and computers can double-check people.

I believe that we can develop voting systems that are secure and reliable for all. I believe that we can do a better job of building voting systems that are accessible to those who are blind or visually impaired, have other physical limitations, or cannot read English, and still allow these voters to verify their ballots are interpreted correctly.

I believe that there is a role for private companies in selling hardware and services, but that there must not only be competition in the initial sale of voting systems, but also competition in follow-on support and services.

Howard Givner, my boss in college, had a sign that said, “Why is there never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to do it over?” Although I have since often found that there is not always enough time to do it over, I believe in the case of computerized voting systems, not only should we do it over, but it will be cheaper in the long run if we do.

I believe we should talk about problems with voting systems, even at the risk of scaring voters. I believe that admitting we have problems with voting systems is the first step to repairing those problems. The claim that no electronic voting system fraud has been detected does not mean that no electronic voting system fraud has ever been perpetrated. Rather, it could mean that there have been inadequate audits and controls needed to detect fraud when it occurs.

I believe we must collectively do all that is within our power to ensure that all eligible voters are able to register to vote, that those registered are able to cast votes, that those ballot are cast as each voter intended, each ballot is recorded as cast, and that the ballots are accurately counted as recorded. I believe that the future of our democracy depends on it.